Isaac Leuthold

January 18, 2019

Seven States Where Chronic Wasting Disease Has Spread Since the Fall Opener

With most of the season’s testing done, it’s clear that the rapid spread of CWD continues 

It may be caused by a mutated protein, but the spread of chronic wasting disease is on the verge of “going viral.” After it was first identified in 1967, the always-fatal deer disease remained isolated to a core region between Colorado and Wyoming for decades. But starting in the early 2000s, CWD began popping up across the country.

Now, it’s spreading faster than ever before. We counted 12 U.S. states that have made news since the end of the 2018 fall hunting season for either finding the disease in formerly CWD-free zones or for implementing new solutions to keep the epidemic out. And 25 states total have had confirmed cases—that’s nearly twice as many as ten years ago.

Fortunately, many hunters and wildlife managers are taking CWD challenges seriously, but states need support to tackle this disease without delay. Here are seven places where CWD is gaining ground.

Tennessee

CWD First Detected: December 2018
Recently Spread to: Fayette and Hardeman Counties

CWD has been found for the first time in the Volunteer State. The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission is implementing an emergency action plan after at least 13 cases of chronic wasting disease were discovered in deer as of late December. A special hunting season in three high-risk counties, which border CWD-positive areas discovered recently in Mississippi, is ongoing through the end of January.

Mississippi

CWD First Detected: February 2018
Recently Spread to: Marshall and Pontotoc Counties

Previously confined to the west-central region of the state, CWD surfaced this year in two northern counties of Mississippi. The infected area covers a large portion of the Holly Springs National Forest.

Arkansas

CWD First Detected: Oct 2015
Recently Spread to: Scott County

CWD was first detected in Arkansas three years ago, and it seems that the disease continues to push south. It is likely only a matter of time until neighboring Louisiana is faced with CWD on both its northern border with Arkansas and eastern border with Mississippi.

Map courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey
Missouri

CWD First Detected: Feb 2010
Recently Spread to: Stone County

A yearling buck harvested on opening weekend of firearm season tested positive for CWD in November 2018, marking fresh territory for the disease in the far southwest corner of Missouri. There were 11 confirmed cases this past hunting season, bringing the state’s all-time total up to 86 deer. Now that CWD is scattered throughout the state, wildlife managers face the especially difficult task of containing the spread.

North Dakota

CWD First Detected: Mar 2010
Recently Spread to: Unit 3A1

The Roughrider State saw CWD break new ground in a northwestern hunting unit, after having been confined to the opposite end of North Dakota for many years. Unfortunately, the expansion is not much of a surprise, according to experts. Neighboring Minnesota and Saskatchewan have CWD-positive zones that are too close for comfort. This will not be an isolated event.

Minnesota

CWD First Detected: Aug 2002
Recently Spread to: Houston County

Just one day after Minnesota announced it would step up its CWD response, a deer tested positive outside the known outbreak zone. The buck was harvested 31 miles from the epicenter of the state’s largest CWD zone (for wild deer) and 25 miles from the closest known CWD case.

Nebraska

First Detected: Jul 1999
Recently Spread to: Valley County and Keya Paha County

The Cornhusker State looks destined to join Wyoming as an area blanketed with CWD. Nebraska added multiple counties to the CWD-positive list this year—around half the state has confirmed cases of the disease.

 

Top photo by Ravi Pinisetti via Unsplash

27 Responses to “Seven States Where Chronic Wasting Disease Has Spread Since the Fall Opener”

  1. Cwd has spread through out wisconsin, how it got here from the West? Most likely in the back of a livestock trailer! Deer farming has helped spread the disease, maybe these farms will help find a cure?
    But, in the mean time, we must prohibit the transfer of cervids between states and farms!
    Deer hunting may vanish in our lifetime! Such a shame!!

  2. Joseph Iwasevic

    I hunt in Georgia where hunting over bait is legal this year. We were aloud to bait before but not aloud to hunt over it.
    Maybe a deer biologists can recommend an additive we can put in the feed to maybe help prevent it.
    Thanks for your time

  3. It’s just “pecking at the surface” if resource agencies can’t enlist support from the entire deer stake holders. I worked on CWD for almost 20 years, and time derailes our efforts as patience runs out amongst landowners, and hunters. Unified and organized effort is our only hope. And, these so called “ leaders” in hunting industry have got to stop the denial regarding the potential ramifications associated with this disease! They’re livelihood is st stake.

  4. The spread of CWD to more states was bound to happen since most states have NOT bothered to take it seriously by requiring mandatory testing. Some states just sit by and watch it spread and others have plans that include waiting and informing hunters before requiring testing. All this simply allows this horrible disease to spread. This result is NO surprise to state DNR. etc.

  5. Casey Hammond

    I’m sick of the blind eye tht alot of states and people are taking on cwd I feel like every deer shot in every state should get tested around any zone withing 50 miles of cwd we need to try stop the spread as much as we can

    • Its spreading like a wildfire. TN where I live e had 0 until December of last year. The TWRA tested in various places the last few years and in December of 18 a couple test came back positive. Now there’s 91 as of a week and a half ago. TWRA has over 800 test that the results aren’t back yet. 0 – 91 in 6 weeks. I hate to think how many there really are. And deer farming is to blame. Not transporting dead deer. That’s been going on for at least 80 years or more. Ever since the automobile got popular. Soon as deer farms start popping up it has spread rapidly and it’s not done. The deer aren’t going to bounce back. They’re gonna be dead. EHD kills some and some survive it. None survive this. A midge fly causes EHD. They quit infecting deer the first freeze. CWD doesn’t die off ever. People can ignore it all they want. CWD doesn’t care a bit.

  6. Ya. I don’t know what’s wrong with the public and believe this bullshit. Diseases have come thru about wipe the mule deer out just like the rabbits coyotes bobcats it’s a balance of nature and then it will come back in 3 or 4 years. When the rabbit population is down coyotes bobcats have just 2 pups or kits and when the rabbit population comes back they have 7 or 8 off spring. It’s the balance of nature. Folks the fish and game in Montana come in and try and wipe out the deer population to try and control the disease. That is a bunch of bullshit. Crowding 70 and have seen this before. People wake up !!!!

    • Any evidence to support your claims Buzz? How is a mutated prion similar to coyotes eating rabbits? I think it is you who needs to wake up. State agencies don’t benefit from this. Most state agencies make over 75% of revenue from big game license sales so why would they want to decrease hunting opportunities and quality? Also, don’t you think the money they spend on CWD management could be spent somewhere else…oh I don’t know like habitat management. I don’t buy the conspiracy theory that they are doing it for the money, in fact they spend a lot of money that would wisely be spent elsewhere.

  7. Carroll V Rickard

    I think the states that are still free of CWD need to clamp down on Hunters traveling into and out of states with CWD. If a hunter applies to a state for permits which has CWD then that state should notify the hunters home state of any kills made in that state so a follow up can be done after the hunter returns home to assure he or she follows all restrictions that apply. Failure to abide by these could result in fines, and loss of hunting privileges in their home state.

  8. Jerry leclair

    It is time to restrict deer harvest to residents only with no deer leaving state borders. Quarantine animals to a state and be aggressively all year long culling the weak fear. How is the prion being transmitted. How did Europe handle mad cow disease

  9. As a hunter I realized a long time ago that many environmentalists and the hunting community have very much in common. If you take out the radicals on both ends they both want allot of the same things. This present problem is as far as I can tell man made from breeding deer etc or sheep on the public lands. The NRA instead of a gun safety organization have been totally taken over by fear mongering by the gun lobby and the radical enviros want no humans on public lands. We are fast approaching a tipping point for wildlife. The population of america has doubled in my lifetime and is estimated to double again in 40 years. Impacts on our beautiful wild lands are escalating at a furious rate. There will be a tipping point as there always is in nature. I want my grandson to enjoy some of the experiences that I did. Please vote like the the wild lands deserve it. My two cents. Thanks

  10. Jeremy Dick

    Great article and visuals! I did some research a few years ago (2015) for grad school and it amazes me how much CWD has spread since then. I’m just not looking forward to the longevity of deer hunting if this spreads even further. I talked to some people who work in the morgue section of a local hospital and learned that prions are one of the only things that cannot be killed off with conventional methods, which really makes it challenging for public health and biologists to tackle this disease.

  11. I believe that we are seeing a rapid expansion of cwd because we are doing extensive testing. The past 2 seasons in Mt. have cases of cwd where we looked,and I think it will show up over most of the state. Mt is being proactive in it’s efforts to curtail the spread, but all the states and provinces have to adopt a proactive approach. In the human population if an epidemic breaks out the CDC isolates the area and aggressively attacks the problem. With CWD in the cervid population we have to be very aggressive with special hunts, closing private clubs with the disease and making hunters aware and responsible for reporting.

  12. People need to stop pointing fingers and start helping get ahead of the train that’s running wild. The fact is, it’s EVERYWHERE and, just like the map showing the spread of the disease, you will find it where you test for it. The State of Wisconsin is working hard at monitoring where it’s at (which is great) but without being able to stop it. The counties with the most are also where they test the most for it. The deer farms (which make up 1% of the nation’s deer population) test up to 100% and that’s how they are able to catch it in early stages even when being double fenced. The deer outside the fence are tested up to 10% when found. Obviously, all the strategies tried in the past decades are not working at stopping the spread of CWD at all. BUT to help ease the tensions that you may feel that hunting will go away, the deer industry has been putting great time and financial resources of their own into the science that strides to breed CWD out of cervids. According to the WI DNR online records, CWD hasn’t affected the deer population at all, actually it’s increased. WI DNR want hunters to debone in the woods, leaving spine and brain behind to “keep it from spreading.” That’s another uproar from the public. Let’s let science go around the CWD problems of spreading and BREED IT OUT of deer, with or without your help. It’s a lot like how they bred scrapie out of sheep. Science will put out the years of political fires if you let it so we can all continue as before.

  13. TN has 91 positive CWD deer as of a week and a half ago. 800 plus test not heard the results back yet. I live in TN BTW and we had 0 the first of December of 2018 now at least 91 confirmed cases. CWD was in just a few states and only in a place or 2 in those states. It stayed that way for most of my hunting career too. And hunters have been transporting dead deer the whole time and no problems. Then about the time a 200″ buck became the norm for most outdoor shows CWD starting spreading at a rapid rate. I well remember when there was only a handful of 200″ gross typical’s killed each year. Now there’s dozens and dozens. Most all “pro” hunters have several. Funny how the very best hunters in the world that were writers for NAW. couldn’t kill a 200 inch buck anywhere. And they hunted the best places in the world. Except they wouldn’t hunt behind high fences unless it was a huge Texas ranch maybe. The spread of CWD coincided with the growth of the deer farming industry. The industry that sells huge bucks to lots of places. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out what has happened. And it’s not the transportation of dead deer that’s done it in my opinion. There’s been nonresident hunters hauling dead deer across the USA ever since there’s been vehicles to do so. With no CWD deer. Now live deer are being sold like cattle and it’s spreading like a wild fire. And for every deer farm that test their herds and do it right, there’s lots that don’t . My state went from 0 to 91 in less than 2 months. And I doubt very many have been tested. 2000 plus and that’s in a state with close to a million. Maybe more. They only tested a small area far as I know. 3 counties are having a special season to collect more deer to test. I think the season ended today or this weekend. I don’t know much but I know this isn’t going to be good.

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John Gans

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posted in: Outdoor Economy

January 11, 2019

Certification is Misleading PR Strategy for Destructive Menhaden Fishery

One company that undermines striped bass populations in the Atlantic is paying to put a blue ribbon on its harmful practices

Reduction fishing is the practice of “reducing” huge numbers of fish into oil and meal to be used in other products—primarily feed for other animals, like pets and farmed salmon. Perhaps it’s not a widely known term because reduction fishing is banned in states up and down the east coast, for decades in some places.

In fact, Virginia is the only state that continues to permit the last holdout of the reduction fishing industry in the Atlantic—a single company called Omega Protein, part of the Canadian-owned Cooke Inc.—to continue to fish for menhaden in this way.

The irony of taking forage fish out of the water that would naturally feed most of our ocean predators and grinding it up to feed farmed fish is not lost on anyone. And you don’t have to be a fisherman to understand that when you suck up the fish at the bottom of the food chain, everything else suffers. So, it should be no surprise that removing large quantities of menhaden has had  a negative impact on striped bass fishing.

Photo by Stephan Lowy.

The menhaden reduction fishing industry accounts for 80 percent of the coastwide catch of these important forage fish. At this level of menhaden harvest, the striped bass population has declined by as much as 30 percent. In fact, the latest stock assessment is likely to show that striped bass are overfished.

Despite perpetuating an antiquated practice that reduces biomass of other fish species in the Atlantic, Omega Protein has applied to have the menhaden fishery certified as “sustainable” by the Marine Stewardship Council, a private international institution. This certification is strictly a pay-to-play arrangement, and it could successfully put a blue ribbon on fishing practices that rob anglers of our sportfishing opportunities. MSC does not even know how many predators rely on menhaden for food to determine if the fishery can legitimately be considered sustainable. Nobody does.

Now, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission—the multi-state agency that sets catch limits on menhaden—is working to get to the bottom of this key question, largely because of the recent outcry from sportsmen and women about the impacts of reduction fishing on sportfish populations.

Since November 2017, the ASMFC has had a scientific team working on a model to account for menhaden’s critical role to sportfish like striped bass and the broader ecosystem. And the truth is that no one can certify that the menhaden fishery is “sustainable” until that question is answered.

But it’s likely that MSC will grant the certification, despite publishing in its own report that the health of the striped bass population is directly linked to menhaden. (They also solicited public feedback as part of their determination, which could be overwhelming.)

Instead of certifying that the Atlantic menhaden fishery as sustainable, MSC should be calling on the industry to substantially reduce its catch, so that predators like striped bass don’t take a hit from the removal of 30 percent of their forage base. Further, Congress should put a stop to reduction fishing in the federal waters of the Atlantic, at least until striped bass have recovered.

In the meantime, we’ll do whatever we can to support the fisheries managers at the ASMFC in their efforts to analyze the actual impacts of reduction fishing of menhaden.

 

Top photo by Stephan Lowy

Here’s How We Welcomed Lawmakers to a New Session of Congress

Our first major ask of the 116th Congress: End the shutdown and put the federal conservation workforce back to work

As freshmen lawmakers join seasoned veterans on Capitol Hill and the partial government shutdown becomes the longest in history, the TRCP is welcoming decision-makers to Washington with a bold message: Here’s what hunters and anglers need from you right now.

These are the top priorities we outlined for Congress in a letter to every office this week:

End the partial government shutdown. This must be the first priority of the 116th Congress. The ongoing government shutdown is having an outsized impact on our nation’s land management agencies and natural resources, as basic public access has been curtailed, and wildlife habitat restoration projects grind to a halt. There is no more urgent conservation issue than putting the people of the Department of the Interior, Agriculture, and Environmental Protection Agency back to work on behalf of the American people, and our fish and wildlife resources.

Recommit to public lands. The waning days of the 115th Congress saw time run out on a comprehensive public lands package that included reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and numerous sportsmen’s priorities. The 116th Congress should capitalize on this momentum by taking early action on that bipartisan and bicameral agreement.

Rebuild our nature-based infrastructure. Natural systems—like coastal barrier islands, wetlands, and intact flood plains—provide some of the most effective and durable solutions to reducing the impacts of large storm events and protecting public safety, natural resources, and homes and businesses. As Congress looks to invest in our national infrastructure, the value of our natural infrastructure should be reflected in new policy and funding.

Don’t ignore climate change. Climate change is altering migration patterns and mating seasons, stressing native species, and lengthening wildfire seasons. Sportsmen and women are often on the front lines to view these kinds of changes firsthand, and we recognize that climate challenges profoundly threaten the future of our traditions and the outdoor economy. Hunters and anglers look forward to being part of the conversation on addressing the issue of climate change and creating a solutions-based approach to managing carbon emissions.

Guard against significant cuts to conservation funding. Fiscal Year 2020 signals the end of the bipartisan budget agreement of 2018 and the potential return of budget sequestration, which will initiate across-the-board cuts to federal resource conservation and land management budgets. Congress must take action to avoid the return of drastic funding cuts for conservation programs that, in many cases, are already underfunded.

In the coming weeks and days, we will continue this conversation with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and develop ways we can partner to meet the needs of America’s hunters, anglers, and unique natural resources.

And we’ll be in touch with sportsmen and women, like you, when there are opportunities to apply pressure and hold policymakers accountable.

 

Photo by Whitney Potter

Kristyn Brady

January 2, 2019

House Reversed Rule That Made It Easier to Sell Off Public Lands

Lawmakers have undone a 2017 rule-change that was widely criticized by hunters and anglers concerned about the threat of public land transfer or disposal

This week, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership encouraged House lawmakers to reverse a 2017 measure that made it easier to transfer or sell off public lands.

“Considering the benefits they provide to local communities and the nation—including outdoor recreation opportunities, clean water, and abundant wildlife habitat—America’s public lands continue to increase in value,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Congress should not be in the business of finding new ways to get rid of our public lands, and we applaud measures proposed by House lawmakers that recognize public lands are national assets, worthy of conservation.”

In its first day in session, the House of the 116th Congress passed a rules package that did not include language widely criticized by hunters and anglers last Congress.

The original rule-change—made by a 40-vote margin on the first day of the 115th Congress—overturned a requirement under Congressional Budget Office accounting rules to offset the cost of any transfer of federal land that generated revenue for the U.S. Treasury, whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing, or other activities.

In other words, for the past two years, public lands—even those producing billions in revenue for the federal government—had no official value and thus were vulnerable in terms of possible transfer to the states. House rules passed on Thursday did not carry this provision forward.

Once again, if lawmakers want to give federal land to a state or local government or tribe, they have to account for that loss of revenue.

“This indicates that public lands are on firmer footing in the 116th Congress,” says Fosburgh. “We encourage all our lawmakers to restore or create policies that will help keep public lands in the public’s hands.”

This story was updated on January 4, 2019.

Guest Blogger Alycia Downs

December 14, 2018

How Fishing Guides Accelerated Everglades Restoration Efforts

As fishing guides, charter captains, and other small business owners share their stories, decision-makers get inspired to make conservation happen in South Florida

From the top of a poling platform in the Florida Keys, a fishing guide scans the flats for a slender outline or a silver flash, whispering instructions to an angler at the bow. “There’s one at ten o’clock. Drop it right in front him. Strip… faster, now…” The more precise the directions, the greater the chance of hooking into the targeted fish. Patience and perseverance are critical, especially when almost every element is outside of your control.

In a moment of such pure concentration, politics should be the furthest thing from the mind of a guide. The unfortunate reality, however, is that our unique experiences on the water—not to mention the livelihoods of countless outdoor recreation business owners in south Florida—are directly affected by decisions made every day in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.

So, these days, the captain who guides you to bucket-list bonefish and tarpon is more likely to be tuned into, and willing to speak out about, the policy decisions that could threaten the future of recreational fishing here in the Everglades.

And it’s paying off for conservation.

Gathering the Guides

For decades now, water quality across Florida’s southern peninsula has declined, causing massive seagrass die-offs and toxic algal blooms. The consequences of this trend are dire: The state’s fishing, boating, real estate, and tourism industries, as well as the health of its residents, all depend on the quality of its water.

Citizen engagement on this issue had been lacking, and politicians at the state and federal level let opportunities to fix these problems slip away. This water crisis could have been fixed years ago with greater awareness of the problem and available solutions.

This realization, combined with the tangible economic impacts to charter fishing businesses, inspired guides like Captains Daniel Andrews and Chris Wittman to take leave of their skiffs and spend their time educating others about Florida’s water mismanagement issues and possible solutions. In 2016, they founded Captains for Clean Water, a non-profit that advocates for clean water and healthy estuaries.

They had no idea that they would be rallying the outdoor industry to the front lines of a decades-old fight.

Map courtesy of Everglades Foundation.
Action for the Everglades

Fast-forward to May 2018, when hundreds of anglers, business owners, and conservationists traveled to Washington, D.C., for the America’s Everglades Summit, a two-day event hosted by the Everglades Foundation. There, they took to the halls of the Capitol to make their voices heard.

“Our sense of urgency and the passion we share for this place, can only be felt in person,” says Captain Benny Blanco. “That’s why I made it a priority to show up and do whatever I could to convince decision-makers. My livelihood and the livelihoods of every South Florida guide hang in the balance. I think they can hear that in my voice.”

The group’s first request for Congress was to authorize the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir in the 2018 Water Resources Development Act. This project will significantly reduce toxic discharges to Florida’s coasts and restore the flow of clean water to the Everglades, where it is needed.

Since then, the collective efforts of organizations like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Captains for Clean Water have helped to bring anglers together and push lawmakers to pass WRDA with critical support for the Everglades. This is strong evidence that when our community unites, we win.

“Having the ability to move forward on the reservoir south of the lake means that we are one step closer to saving Florida Bay and the northern estuaries,” says Captain Josh Greer, a southwest Florida business owner and fishing guide, who encourages his customers to keep up the pressure on lawmakers. “If we can do that, guides like me can continue to make a living on the water. We need everyone to continue making noise and pushing the state and federal government for funding before we lose the Everglades for good.”

The Next Chapter

The effort to restore the Everglades is far from over, and attention now turns to providing federal funding for the EAA Reservoir. In 2019, Captains for Clean Water pledges to lead this charge, rallying supporters and working with elected officials to solve this critical issue.

With so much at stake, the time to act for Florida’s water quality and outdoor economy is now.

“Restoring flows to Florida Bay has never been more crucial,” says Blanco, “but we’ve never had more evidence that the voices of recreational fishermen can make an impact.”

 

Learn more and get involved at captainsforcleanwater.org.

 

Alycia Downs is the communications associate for Captains for Clean Water, a non-profit advocating for clean water and healthy estuaries. As an avid sportswoman, writer, and Southwest Florida native, she creates content for numerous organizations promoting tourism, conservation, fishing, and outdoor involvement. Downs can be found casting lines along the Gulf Coast, where she lives with her husband Mike. For more outdoor inspiration and to get in touch, visit tideandtale.com or follow her on Instagram @tideandtale.

 

Top photo by Dusan Smetana

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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